The Nebraska Cornhuskers (11-2, 1-1) have had good showings in Big Ten play so far, with a nine-point win over the Iowa Hawkeyes and an overtime loss to the formerly-ranked Michigan State Spartans. Today, at 6 p.m., they will host the Minnesota Golden Gophers (11-2, 1-1), who are off to another great start in the second year of coach Lindsay Whalen’s tenure.
Minnesota may fall out of the rankings on Monday because of its recent loss to the unranked Ohio State Buckeyes, but the team has a great opportunity to get back on track against a solid Nebraska squad.
Minnesota’s leading scorer, Destiny Pitts, is off to a phenomenal start to her junior season. Her scoring average is up a tad from last year at 17.1 and she has been efficient from distance (46.7 percent) and from the stripe (84.5 percent). As a team, the Golden Gophers are shooting 40.2 percent from beyond the arc.
Pitts shot above 83 percent from the line as a freshman and sophomore as well. Her abilities in that department make her dangerous as a driver and not just an outside shooter. Meanwhile, her partner in crime, Taiye Bello, is averaging a double-double of 12.8 points and 10.4 rebounds.
However, Minnesota may have trouble containing Nebraska’s 6-foot-5 junior Kate Cain, who is averaging 10.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. The Gophers lack size as a team and Bello is the tallest player in their rotation at 6-foot-2.
The Cornhuskers are led in scoring by Leigha Brown and Sam Haiby, who average 14.0 and 11.3 points, respectively. Leigha is a forward and Haiby is a guard, so with Cain at center they form a versatile trio.
What the Cornhuskers are lacking is 3-point shooting efficiency — they shoot just 28.6 percent from long range. Senior guard Hannah Whitish is the only player on the team who has made more than 11 triples (with 23) and she is shooting 32.4 percent. If she can get going that could be the difference for Nebraska, which will already have the advantage inside.
No. 24 Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
When: Saturday, Jan. 4, at 6 p.m. ET
Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, NB